Putting It on the Line

It’s hard to envision just how long a one kilometre zip-line is until you’re standing on the launch platform.

Trust me: it is very, very, very long.

It’s so long you can barely make out the landing platform at the other end. When you watch another rider taking their turn, it takes you a while to realize that the tiny dot of colour amongst the trees is actually a person.

In fact, the kilometre-long zip-line is the longest in North America and you can try it yourself at our very own local ski hill Mount Sima (take that, Whistler).

A zip-line, which also goes by such aliases as of flying fox, aerial runway, and (according to Wikipedia) death slide, consists of a cable in the air strung across a portion of terrain (in this case the majority of Mount Sima’s vertical drop).

It has pulleys attached to harnesses that allow you to ride the cable from start to finish quickly. Very quickly.

The most important thing to know is that it is really, really fun—unless you’re afraid of heights.

If that applies to you, I have been told it is still really fun, once you get over the shock of realizing that you have willingly allowed yourself to be put in this situation.

Mount Sima’s setup is part of the new Wild Play Elements Park. The park’s infrastructure includes the ZOOM zip-lines (three, with a fourth to be installed shortly) that take you from the top of the mountain to the base.

It also includes the MONKIDO aerial adventures, a fantastic-looking ropes and climbing course that I’ll give you a more in-depth view of later this summer.

Wild Play, in combination with the hill’s mountain bike park and chairlift sight-seeing tours, form the backbone of Sima’s new summer programming.

It was a cold, wet day when I arrived at Mount Sima with a small group of friends to try out the zip-line.

We certainly weren’t about to let that stop us, but it did make us wish for a few more layers, especially during the chairlift ride up the mountain, which moves more slowly than it does in winter, to facilitate sight-seeing.

Luckily for us the harnesses that ZOOM provides look like a cross between a backpack and a camp chair that keeps the wind off your back and helps keep you warm (even at 90 km/hour, as we were soon to find out).

The gear is a bit tricky for a first-timer to get into, and if you don’t sufficiently loosen off the straps you do start to impersonate the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but the guides are great at getting everyone set up.

Once you actually start riding the zip-lines, you can’t imagine ever sitting in a regular old climbing harness ever again.

ZOOM believes in meeting everyone where they’re at and making sure they feel safe and secure so that they can challenge themselves. They do a great job of that—taking you through a safety demo and a short, gentle zip-line before they pull out the big guns.

Then, just when you’re feeling all safe and secure and proud of how brave you are, they hit you with “Insomniac”.

Insomniac is as big as it gets on this continent. It’s steep and fast enough that your eyes water during the ride and that they need to keep a close eye on any tail winds that might be whipping down the mountain that could propel you even faster.

It’s long enough that you actually have time to consider what you are doing—including how far off the ground you are—while you’re doing it. And it’s crazy fun.

The guides tell me that many riders average 85-90 km/hour on the ride, but that when they were initially testing the line they got sets of sandbags up to 125 km/hour.

Once you’ve survived Insomniac giggling and grinning (if you’re me) or screaming expletives bounded by “that was awesome” (if you’re my friend) they throw you on yet another zip-line.

This one whips you through the trees (instead of high above them, which is where Insomniac keeps you).

The guides encourage you to “cannonball” (pulling your body into a tight ball) or “pencil” (keeping yourself rigid and straight) to pick up more speed as the branches flash by in blur.

At this point your friendly neighbourhood Mt. Sima crew picks you up in a van to transport you the short distance back to the lodge.

In future, you’ll be able to take a fourth and final zip-line from here to MONKIDO, where you can make a day of it and play in the treetops for the afternoon.

Amber Church is a painter, writer and sports enthusiast. You can reach her at [email protected].

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